Happy Easter!

My daughter was sweet enough to take photos of Easter brunch from our basket for me to share.

She even used a couple of the Lavender Rose China we inherited from my late MIL as part of the display. She made it all look so pretty!

Unfortunately, my husband had an unusually bad pain day and was not able to join the girls. In fact, I don’t think he even ate at all until shortly before I got home. 😦

As for myself, I left early for my mom’s to make sure I had time to fill her gas tank first (gas prices have gone down a few pennies to 169.9 cents per litre). We had a short visit before walking across the street with her walker to her church. Having the church so close is one of the main reasons she chose to move to where she is! πŸ˜€ It was an excellent service, and I quite appreciated the homily. After church, we headed out to my brother’s place.

There are two routes that I’m familiar with to get to their place. Normally, I’d take a more straightforward route on the highways, bypassing the city, to get to the town my brother lives in. My mother, however, insists on a route that takes us through a smaller city, where we have to cross an insanely narrow bridge over a major river. Which isn’t too much of a problem in my mother’s little car, but every time I take that bridge with our van, I feel like I’m either going to hit oncoming traffic, or scrape the guardrails! My mother is so insistent on taking the “right” route (which she thinks is a short cut), that when I got distracted and turned towards the city (my usual route) instead of the other direction to take a cross road to another highway, she actually got furious and started shouting at me for going the wrong way.

It took half a minute to circle around, and I was able to calm her down, but even for her it was a bit much to get so angry, so fast.

There turned out to be an irony about this.

Things were more pleasant as the drive continued. We got to the smaller city and drove through it to the bridge and…

It was closed.

Which… of course it would be. With the snow we’ve recently had, and the bridge being so narrow, now that I think about it, yeah, it would be. In fact, I would not be surprised to learn it was closed through most of the winter.

So we bypassed the bridge and got onto another highway towards the bigger city. However, in taking this route, we were passing through a more populated area, so the speed limits were all much lower. Which means that we probably ended up taking at least half an hour longer to get there than if we’d gone the route I almost took out of habit that she yelled at me for!

The irony was not lost on her!

When we realized the bridge was closed, I pulled over long enough to message my brother to let him know about the bridge, and that we would be a bit longer. As I was getting back on the road, I noticed it was just starting to snow.

The weather forecast for today was for either isolated flurries, or up to 6cm/2in of snow, depending on which app I looked at. Until then, the day had been completely clear. Within minutes, we were driving into ever heavier snowfall. Thankfully, it was warm enough that it melted as soon as it hit pavement, but visibility got quite poor in places.

When we finally got to the last leg of the journey, approaching a road I could have taken for a shorter route to my brother’s, we kept on going because it was blocked by a train! It was quite a while before we finally passed the end of the train, and I was actually starting to wonder if it would be clear of our next possible turn off when we got there. Thankfully, it was, so there were no more delays in getting to my brother’s.

The visit was absolutely fantastic. We had a fantastic time seeing each other, a wonderful dinner and, best of all, I got lots of baby snuggles!

So many baby snuggles.

Unfortunately, the snow did not lessen any and we left far earlier than we wanted to. It’s a good thing we did. While the roads were still good, they were very wet, and would have soon started to freeze. As it was, the further north we got, the snow was less, but I could see it starting to freeze over in places.

After dropping my mother off and continuing home, the highway was actually much better and almost dry, until I got about 5 or 10 minutes from home, when I drove into snow again, but it was just snowy enough to impact visibility a bit, not road conditions.

One thing we did see a lot of was deer! Not often. Just lost of them. On our way out, we passed a field that had maybe 20 deer scattered around it. On my way back, just as I was slowing down to turn off the highway, I saw what had to be at least 30 deer in a field. A group of at least 10 were just lying in the snow! I’ve seen some fairly large herds of deer in the area over the years, but this group was easily the most I’ve ever seen of white tail deer, all at once.

The girls were sweet enough to set aside portions from our basket for me, which was much appreciated by the time I got home.

I did notice that, by the time I got home, the kibble was all gone, so I topped that up before going in.

I saw very few outside cats this morning. As I was leaving, I startled a skunk, and it ran under the cat’s house. As I walked by, I could see it’s adorable, pointy little nose poking out, as it watched me leave. When I got back, there was another skunk – or maybe the same one – poking around the kibble house trays, trying to find something to eat.

Potato Beetle, meanwhile, remains in the sun room, and has his very own bowl of food that he doesn’t have to share with any other cats. Or skunks… birds… deer… When I got home, he actually made a “dash” for the door to get outside. He can’t dash very quickly right now, with his injured leg, so that wasn’t much of a problem.

What is more of a problem is the fact that the litter box remains completely unused. Which means he’s found a corner in the sun room somewhere that he’s using, instead. *sigh* It’s a good thing the sun room has a concrete floor!

Rolando Moon was following me around while I was doing my morning rounds, and enjoys running ahead, then rolling on the ground. I couldn’t resist sharing this picture, when I realized her tongue is sticking out!

What a silly kitty!

As I write this, we’re now heading towards 10pm. It’s still snowing a bit, and gotten cold enough for it to finally start accumulating. It’s not the first time we’ve had snow for Easter, of course, but usually that’s been when Easter was earlier in the month! Last night, we hit lows of -17C/1F, that I know of, and the sun room thermometer actually dipped below 0C/32F. Potato Beetle made use of the warming lamp and was just fine. Tonight, the low is supposed to be only -7C/19F, though the wind chill is supposed to be -14C/7F. Starting tomorrow, however, we’re supposed to reach highs above freezing, and stay there from now on, with lows barely dipping below freezing over the next few days. In a couple of days, we’re supposed to get a mix of rain and snow, but today’s snow should be our last blast of winter.

But then, we thought we were getting the last blasts of winter a couple of times now, only to have the forecast change, quite a lot, over and over! However, looking at our 30 year average, and record, highs and lows, I think we’ll be leveling off and warming up from now on.

Even with the snow, however, today was a fantastic Easter!

I hope you and yours also had an excellent day, filled with food, family and fun!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 Easter basket

Today, we assembled our traditional Polish Easter basked and blessed it. If you wish to learn more about the symbolism of its contents, you may wish to visit this site. (link will open a new tab)

Over the years, we modified, dropped or added items with complementary symbolism. In the tiny jars, we have salt (traditional) red wine vinegar, mustard and olive oil (non-traditional). Normally, we’d have horseradish root, but ours is buried under snow, and we don’t use it enough to warrant a jar, however the mustard we chose this year has horseradish in it. The olives are non-traditional, and while eggs are traditional, this year we have pickled eggs, which is not. The bright yellow and white ones are the turmeric eggs we tried this year; the white spots are from being a tight fit in the jar! πŸ˜€ The cheese, ham, sausage and bread are all traditional, as is the butter in a small glass. Usually, I put that in a small bowl with a cross made of cloves pressed into it, but it gets hard to fit the containers, so I melted some butter and poured it into a glass, instead. The one concession to a typical North American basket are the little chocolate eggs. The whole thing gets covered with a pretty cloth. I’ve got several hand embroidered, some antique, clothes I like to use. The one chosen for this year is actually under the basket as I took the picture. We skipped the sprigs of greenery because we usually just don’t have any fresh greenery around Easter.

Over the years, we’ve included prosciutto roses (in place of the traditional bacon), marzipan shaped into a lamb and flowers, a bottle of wine, a white candle, and fruit. An apple, grapes or figs would all by symbolically appropriate.

Normally, after the basket has been blessed, we’d put things away in the fridge until tomorrow, when it will be the basis of our Easter brunch. This year, however, it’s cold enough that we can put it all into the old kitchen, which is easily as cold as a fridge!

As I will be out for much of the day, I don’t know when I will have a chance to write a post. So I will take this moment to wish you all a happy and blessed Easter, from the Re-Farmer family to yours!

More digging, an injured cat and Easter preparations

There weren’t a lot of cats out and about when I did my morning rounds, which was a bit of a surprise.

I only spotted seven at first! Then Potato Beetle showed up, wanting into the sun room, so I let him.

With a bit of concern. He seemed to be limping a bit.

With the new snow on the ground, I can’t get to some of the areas that I normally check as part of my rounds, so the necessities were finished quickly. I decided to take the time to dig out the burn barrel, since we’ll need to fire it up before things start melting away.

This area had been almost completely clear of snow before the storm. This is all new snow.

After digging out enough space to move around the barrel without getting too close while it’s lit, I also dug a path to the spare fire ring, and took the snow off the dry wood and kindling we have on the grate we use as a spark shield in the summer.

After a quick check of the roof, I dug out (almost literally) the roof snow shovel and used that to take as much snow off the sun room roof as I could. Hopefully, there won’t be too many leaks into the sun room when the rest of it melts.

While in the sun room, Potato Beetle came out of his warm spot on the bottom shelf, which is when I could see that yes, he was limping. A lot. He was avoiding putting weight on his front left leg at much as he could.

Damn.

I’ve called the vet and we now have an appointment for him for Wednesday at 7pm. They are now open 7 days a week, for extended hours. They are even open over Easter weekend, but are so booked, that was the earliest she could fit us in. She did put us on the cancellation list, just in case.

*sigh*

Hopefully, the funds set aside for my new glasses (which apparently won’t happen, since I’m not allowed to get an eye exam) will be enough cover it.

So that is set for Wednesday evening, then on Thursday, I have to go to court to deal with our vandal’s vexatious litigation against me that he filed, after I applied for the restraining order against him.

Hopefully, the judge will throw it out for the ridiculousness it is.

*sigh*

Well, until then, we will continue our Easter traditions. Today, we are assembling our basket. We’ve decided not to take it to the church for blessing, and will just bless it ourselves again. When my mother told me her church was doing it and what time, I talked about possibly bringing our basket in. She then launched into a long diatribe about how she hoped I wouldn’t bring that big, big basket I had the last time we were able to get our basket blessed. Apparently, in her mind, only small baskets are acceptable. No one has big baskets, so bringing a big basket is somehow uncivilized. Clearly, she forgets some of the big baskets people would bring to the church we used to go to when I was a kid. Ours could be considered small in comparison. Not to mention the ones with all the decorations hanging off the handles, and the bottles of win, etc. What she’s completely forgetting is why we do basket blessings in the first place. Instead, it’s become yet another thing to show off to other people, and judge other people for if they do it “wrong”. I don’t want her attitude to ruin one of our most symbolic and deeply meaningful traditions. When I called her last night and updated her on things (my nephew and his family were on the road at the time; they have since arrived safely!), she brought up getting her own basket ready, then asked if I’d be bringing ours. Phrased in such a way that she clearly thought I would not, and that the restrictions (there are none) were the reason.

Since I am driving my mother to my brother’s on Easter, the girls are staying home to celebrate it with my husband, with our traditional brunch, using foods from the basket.

I hope they remember to take pictures for me! πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer

Storm Status, and Easter baking

Well, it’s certainly snowing and blowing enthusiastically, out there!

That hasn’t stopped the birds from enjoying the suet feeder.

The driveway is so white right now, it’s messing with the camera’s ability to “see” it, making for some interesting rings of colours on there.

I took this screencap of the weather app on my desktop, just minutes ago. According to this, the worst is still yet to come. It is still conflicting with what’s showing on the weather radar.

Well, it will be what it will be. My main concern is with the high winds, of course. When this is over, we’ll have to do a walk-about to see if any more dead trees have come down, or what branches have fallen.

From the looks of the weather radar, the most severe conditions are hitting the US, as the system sweeps across the Eastern states. I hope those of you living in those states are keeping safe!

While it’s snowing and blowing, we got some bread baking done.

A two-loaf recipe was divided into four small loaves. The prettiest one will be for our Easter basket.

Since I was baking bread anyhow, I made a batch of oatmeal bread, also divided into four small loaves instead of two regular loaves. That way, we get a loaf each. πŸ˜€

I’m looking forward to having one of them with a big bowl of chili, once it cools down enough. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Watching the radar

Things are still looking pretty good out there, though the daytime temperatures are definitely on the colder side. The storm alerts remain, with snow predicted to start in the wee hours, tonight. The local “looking ahead” notification on my phone’s app now reads, “A snowstorm from late tonight into Friday afternoon with blizzard conditions tomorrow and accumulations of 40-60 cm.”

That’s 16-24 inches. Yesterday, the high end of the local prediction was up to 45cm/18in.

The main alert has changed a bit. I no longer see the warning for up to 80cm/31in in some areas.


Winter Storm Warning

Issued at 04:27 Tuesday 12 April 2022

Hazardous winter conditions are expected.

Major spring storm poised to wallop southern Manitoba beginning overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning and lasting until Friday morning. Widespread snowfall accumulations of 30-50 cm accompanied by northerly winds gusting 60-70 km/h giving zero visibility at times in snow and blowing snow.

A Colorado low will move towards Minnesota Tuesday night bringing a heavy swath of snow through most of southern Manitoba. The snow will start early Tuesday evening near the International border then push northward throughout the night. By Wednesday morning heavy snow will be falling in much of the area as the storm continues to push northward. Strong northerly winds will develop with this system and persist into Friday morning as the low slowly pivots through Minnesota on it’s way into northwestern Ontario.

For the City of Winnipeg and points southeastward, a break in the snow may occur on Wednesday afternoon or evening before snow re-intensifies overnight into Thursday. 15 to 20 cm is likely by Wednesday afternoon, with a further 15 to 20 cm likely with the second area of snow overnight Wednesday through Thursday and Thursday night.

By Friday morning, widespread snowfall accumulations of 30 to 40 cm are likely.

Travel will become increasingly difficult as the day progresses Wednesday, with widespread highway closures a near-certainty. By Wednesday evening even travel within communities may become impossible as the heavy snow and strong winds continue… and more of the same is expected on Thursday.

Do not plan to travel – this storm has the potential to be the worst blizzard in decades. Stock up on needed supplies and medications now. Power outages are likely, rural areas in particular should be prepared for extended outages.

Conditions should begin to improve on Friday as the winds taper off and the heaviest snow moves into northern Ontario…although the clean-up after this storm will likely last well into next week.

###

Rapidly accumulating snow will make travel difficult. There may be a significant impact on rush hour traffic in urban areas. Heavy snowfall accumulation combined with strong winds may cause damage to trees or other structures. Poor weather conditions may contribute to transportation delays.

Winter storm warnings are issued when multiple types of severe winter weather are expected to occur together.


As I write this, the main body of the system is over North Dakota as mostly snow, shifting to mostly rain across Minnesota. Though the system is being pushed almost straight North, it’s going East enough that it looks like the most severe weather will pass over the southern border where Manitoba and Ontario meet, with the rain in Minnesota turning to snow quickly, as it heads into Ontario. The system is very wide, from East to West, but it’s now looking like Saskatchewan is going to be spared the worst of it. My nephew and his family are still thinking of making the drive out, but a day later than originally planned.

We’ll see how things actually turn out.

Until then, things continue as usual.

Ghost Baby has been coming out every morning, of late, and not being a ghost at all. My guess is that it’s because she’s pregnant and very hungry.

Just look at those silly kitties, crowding around the one tray on the ground, when there are four other trays inside the kibble house! Altogether, I saw 14 kitties this morning.

While switching out the memory card on the sign cam, I was finally able to find something – it just had to wait for more snow to melt, and the leaf litter to dry before I could see it.

This is one of the closures from the trail cam. I’d been able to find the wire latch, but the black plastic leaver with the hinge were too dark to see on dark wet ground.

Of course, it’s the top latch that broke. The bottom latch is still intact and should be enough to keep the camera closed enough for the weather seal to keep working, but with this latch broken, there is more of a possibility that moisture will get in.

There are a lot of things I like about this camera, but it has one major failing. I cannot handle our cold. When the temperatures drop, the LED screen stops working, and I have to warm it up with my hands to be able to see the settings while changing the micro disc card. Any colder, and it simply stops recording and the batteries freeze. At least it does start working again on its own, when the batteries warm up again. And now I find the plastic becomes more brittle due to the cold, too. At least I hope it’s due to the cold. Otherwise, it’s just cheap plastic.

Ah, well. Live and learn.

I would still recommend this camera is you live somewhere with warmer winters than what we get. For most of Canada, however, I’d say don’t bother. There are other brands with the features this one has that I like. They cost a lot more, but you get what you pay for!

Meanwhile…

We are still working on our Easter preparations. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to the blessing of the baskets on Saturday, but we’re still making it. This year, we’re doing the eggs differently. Instead of dying them in the shell, we’re doing different types and colours of pickled eggs. Right now, we’ve got pink pickled eggs in the fridge, using the brine from our out pickled beets. We’re also going to do a soy sauce brine for brown, and turmeric brine for yellow. I boiled up a whole bunch of eggs already, and finished peeling the last of them this morning. We have just enough mostly-undamaged eggs to do 6 of each type of pickle… and a bunch of ugly ones for egg salad. πŸ˜€ After that, the only thing we have left to do is bake our fancy Easter bread. πŸ™‚

Easter has always been my favourite Holy Day, and our basket tradition the one I’ve always looked forward to the most!

The Re-Farmer

Happy New Year!

The Potato Beetle does not approve of 2022, already!

Maybe because, as I write this, we’re at -33C/-27F with a wind chill of -42C/-44F, which is a couple of degrees warmer than when I was outside feeding the critters.

I made sure to top their kibble up yesterday evening, and there was still some left. Not a lot of the outside cats came out for non-frozen kibble. The warm water was of much more interest to them! At least it was sunny, and the yard is sheltered from the wind.

I hope you had a wonderful time bringing in the New Year, while keeping warm and cozy!

We had our prime rib dinner, which turned out very well, even though things didn’t turn out as planned. After going through a number of recipes, I settled on one that said to roast it at 500F for 20 minutes, then shut off the oven and leave it closed for 2 hours. The recipe even made clear that this worked on newer ovens with digital temperature displays that were more accurate than older ones, and since we did have to get a new oven…

Well, after 2 hours, the meat thermometer basically read “raw”. Oh, there was a fantastic crust on the outside – I coated it with a heavy layer of fresh crushed garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and enough truffle infused olive oil to make a paste – but the internal temperature barely moved the needle on my meat thermometer. I fell back on another set of instructions I’d read, which had been to sear at 400F, let sit for 3 hours in a closed oven, then roast at 350F until the internal temperature was right. So I turned the oven back on, and it took about 45 more minutes to reach medium rare, then it had to come out to make room for the stuffed squash. The squash took way longer to roast than expected, and we ended up increasing the temperature and cooking the appetizers at the same time. We ended up eating the squash as an appetizer, too. πŸ˜€ It just worked out better that way.

The stuffed squash was only thing I managed to get a picture of. I can’t remember the name of the squash I bought.

My daughter stuffed the halves with thin slices of Granny Smith apples, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. It was very good, though the squash itself was not as tasty as the Red Kuri squash we grew (which I’ve never seen in a grocery store), so we didn’t bother keeping the seeds.

All in all, it was a very good meal, and we all ate way too much, even though we spread the courses over several hours. My husband didn’t make it to midnight, and our daughters and I almost didn’t, either! πŸ˜€

Aren’t we just the party animals. πŸ˜‰

Today, we’re planning another special – much smaller! – dinner to continue celebrating the new year, which is also the 8th day of Christmas.

Until then, I think what I really want to do is take a nap.

I like my boring life.

The Re-Farmer

I see you…

After setting out food and warm water for the outside cats, I noticed a little face peeking at me from under the kibble house.

It wasn’t until I uploaded the photo that I saw there were three cats under there!

It’s a bit tight, but squeezing under there is a favourite spot for the smaller cats. Putting the sheet of insulation under there may have made it a bit tighter, but I don’t think they mind! There is also insulation under the floor boards of the kibble house, so they are insulated from above and below in there.

Which was sure needed, today! We were supposed to warm up a few degrees today, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. When I headed out, it was still -35C/-31F with a wind chill of -42C/-44F At least according to my app. We didn’t have any wind in the yard, so we at least didn’t have to deal with that. As I write this, it’s -31C/-24F with a wind chill of -40C/-40F. Our high of the day is supposed to reach -27C/-17F with a wind chill of -37C/-35F

A good time to celebrate New Year’s indoors!!! My FIL used to bring in the new year with a BBQ every year, even if it meant shoveling out the BBQ. We did keep that up for a while, but … no. πŸ˜€ BBQ’s don’t cook very well in these temperatures, no matter how high you turn up the heat!

The critters seem to be handling the temperatures just fine. With the long, mild fall we had, the deer will have built up a good layer of fat for the winter. The deer in the photo above is walking in the path dug along the garden bed at the fence. It’s one of a pair that come here every day, several times a day, to the feeding station. They don’t leave much behind for the birds! πŸ˜€

Well, it’s time for me to get started on our New Year’s dinner. We’re doing a prime rib today; something I’ve never done before. Until we got our quarter beef, we’ve never been able to afford one before! I’m really looking forward to it. πŸ™‚

Happy New Year! And I hope you’re warm and toasty, wherever you are celebrating. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Year End Review: our top 10 most popular posts for 2021

Well, we’re at the end of the year, and I thought it would be a good time to look back and see how things have been on the blog.

I’m actually going to do two “top 10” lists. The first will be the most popular posts of all. None of them, however, were posts written within this past year! Some of them were on last year’s list, too. So I will do a second list for posts written in 2021.

Here we are, starting with the all-time, top 10 posts for 2021. All links will open in a new tab, so you don’t lose your place. πŸ™‚

10. Making crab apple cider: airlock or cheese cloth?

9. Chokecherries, ready to freeze

8. Making a quick rope gate

7. Making Chokecherry Vinegar

6. Recommended: Kris Harbour Natural Building

5. Making kluski; Polish drop noodles

4. Sourdough Cornmeal Pancakes

3. Recommended: XiaoXi’s Culinary Idyll

2. Making hard crab apple cider: will it work?

1. Things with crab apples: apple cider vinegar

If this were a top 20 list, there would be a lot more posts related to crab apples on there! A lot of people were looking for things do with them, which makes me happy. We had no crab apples this year, so it’s good to know that so many others had plenty, and were looking for ways to preserve the bounty. πŸ™‚


Now we have our list of 10 most popular posts that were actually written in 2021 – and they certainly are on a different theme!

10. Clean up: our “second bathroom”, first coat inside done! Now we just need to finish the outside. πŸ™‚

9. Hinge fix done! And so is the van. πŸ™‚ Well, unfortunately, that hinge fix didn’t last, and rather than do it again, we’re avoiding using the door until we can replace the entire door and frame.

8. Garden plans for 2021 All the best laid plans…

7. Our 2021 garden: the pressure is on! A kind gift we still appreciate!

6. Ginger Baby Update He’s doing just fabulous, now.

5. Presto, Change-o! Alas, between the drought and the critters, we didn’t have the quantities produce we hoped we would, and had nothing to use the pressure canner for. 😦

4. Our 2021 garden: transplanting Crespo squash I am still determined to grow these successfully, at least once!

3. Cold climate seed sources Particularly aimed at those growing in zone 3, or even lower.

2. Making hard crab apple cider: bottling day To answer the question in the number 2 spot of the previous list, yes. It worked quite well!

1. Our 2021 Garden: our Morado mystery And it’s still a mystery, as the Montana Morado got renamed Mountain morado. This fall, I found and ordered kulli corn seeds, and they finally made it through customs, so I should get them early in the new year.


There we have it! This year’s most popular blog posts of all, and the most popular blog posts written this year.

It seems lots of people have food and gardening on the mind!

I am most appreciative that so many people are finding these posts useful. Thank you for checking them out! I hope we will have many more useful posts for people to enjoy in the future.

The Re-Farmer

2021 Goals: Review and Reset

It’s that time of year again!

As the year winds down, it’s time to review the goals we’d set, see what worked, what didn’t and what we want to accomplish next year.

Among the goals we had:

Starting a cordwood shed to use as an outdoor bathroom, with a composting toilet, to replace the outhouse over a pit.

Well, that didn’t happen. Which is turned out to not necessarily be a bad thing.

The location we want to build it is in that open space behind the compost ring. One of the things I did this past summer was go through the spruce grove and mark most of the dead spruce trees I found. I marked almost 2 dozen, and there were several others I didn’t bother marking, or couldn’t get at. These were trees that were intended to be used for the cordwood walls, however priorities have changed. They will now be used to build high raised garden beds. Right now, the space we want to build in is going to be needed to drag logs out of the spruce grove. Thanks to my mother, we now have a wood chipper that we can use to break down the branches, so we’re not adding to all the branch piles, and will have plenty of wood chips for mulch.

Until we can build the outdoor bathroom, we do still need something to use the next time we have plumbing problems, so the inside of the old outhouse was fixed up and made pretty (the photo here is from before it was finished). A goal for 2022 is to remove the old, moss covered shingles, extend the roof to create an overhang above the door, re-shingle it (or use some of the left over bits of metal roofing we still have in the barn), and do any repairs on the outside before giving it all a final paint job.

We did find that a groundhog had got into the pit and dug a den under the floorboards somewhere. Sadly, if we get an average amount of snow, this will likely result in a drowned groundhog. Our first two springs here, we found that snow melt would form a large puddle in front of the outhouse, and I could see in the hole under the door, which is now fixed, that the pit filled completely with water. There is nothing we can do about this. Hopefully, the groundhog will wake up early enough and leave the den before this is an issue.

Another of our goals is to have the branch piles chipped. While we now have this awesome new wood chipper, which can chip branches up to 3 inches thick, it is very slow going. The branches have to be trimmed of any sticky-outy bits, and be straight, or it won’t go through. For the sake of efficiency, it will be better to hire the tree guys and their massive chipper. When we got their estimate, they figured it would take 6 hours to chip all our wood piles. For our budget, I’m hoping that we can have them come out for three hours in the spring, to get at least the big pile in the outer yard done, and maybe the little ones in the maple grove. Then we can see about hiring them again, maybe in the fall, to do the remaining big piles. With the new wood chipper, we should at least not be adding more to the branch piles, as we clear dead trees out of the spruce grove!

Another goal that we once again failed to meet, was hiring someone to haul the junk pile away to the landfill. This irritates me, because that pile is getting so large, and we are getting to a point where we need to start cleaning up on that side of the chain link fence. If our budget allows, I’m hoping to at least have smaller loads removed, as we can afford it. The name I have for a guy that hauls junk uses a pick up truck, so if we can get him to come by a few times throughout the year, even that would be a help.

Our gardening goals were mostly met, as far as drought conditions allowed. We used poplars we’d cleared out of parts of the spruce grove to build trellises, and those will be used for another year. We planted in areas far from the house, partly to prepare the soil for permanent plantings. The corn and sunflowers were potentially there to provide privacy screens, too, but the drought and poor soil conditions prevented that. Having to use 300 feet of garden hose to water things, and still just barely being able to reach some corners, during a drought and heat waves, was something we could have done without! Add in damage from deer and groundhogs, and it’s a miracle we had as much produce as we did.

For 2022, our garden plans will continue, and this year we will start with the permanent plantings. We are pouring over websites and looking over what bushes we will be planting in those far flung areas. In one section, we will be closing off a gap in the hedge along the north fence line that the deer go through. My mother had been planting lilacs along this fence, but we are looking to plant berry producing shrubs and bushes, instead. We will also be planting them along the east side, both to help keep deer out and to create a privacy screen. We still need to make sure we can access the east fence line, and there has to be a lane kept open, over where the telephone wires are buried, so we will use other methods to close that off to the deer. We’ll have a better idea of what we can buy in January, when many of the nurseries will have their new inventory available. We might be going with sea buckthorn, if the other varieties we were looking at don’t come back into stock.

Other things we intend to order for 2022 are raspberry canes and, if all goes well, Korean Pine. These require shade for their first 5 years, so they will be planted just north of the spruce grove. If budget allows, we’d like to get new Saskatoon bushes, too.

We will have to take out more of the crab apple trees, to remove diseased trees. There are two trees that produce the best apples. If I can protect those, I will be happy. However, we will also be getting other types of fruit trees including, hopefully, a hardier variety of mulberry tree to replace the one that we bought last year, that got killed off by that one cold night that also killed off all the flowers that would have given us fruit and berries this past year. I’m not sure how many we will be able to squeeze out of our budget this year, but the more fruit trees we get, the better, as they can take many years before producing fruit. Berry bushes are also high on our list, as they will start producing much faster.

This past year, we expanded our garden plots significantly, but with our long term goal of growing as much of our own food as possible, we will need to continue to expand and prepare new ground. Now that we have a working chain saw, we’ll be able to clear dead trees out of the spruce grove and clean that up faster. Many of these dead trees appear to have no rot in them yet, and we plan to turn many stumps into benches and tables. We will also need to clear out the fallen rotten trees, and other fire hazards. Once things are cleared out, we will be planting more spruces in the spruce grove, as well as fruit and berry trees that require more protection from the elements. We’re also looking at getting some Rugosa roses, though they will likely be used more as a deer barrier!

Where the trellises are now will eventually be converted to our food forest, except for the lane that needs to be kept open over the buried phone line, but we will use them where they are for one more year. We ordered quite a lot of seeds already, from Vesey’s (including replacement seeds) and Baker Creek again, plus two orders from Heritage Harvest, which is a new company for us this year. The only seeds we’ve ordered that are still en route are the kulli corn. The only other seeds I still plan to buy are peas, but I will pick those up from a local store when they come available, rather than ordering them in. We will also be making use of seeds from our inventory left over from last year. Which means we will need to build more trellises, once we decide where, because we’ll have quite a few vining plants, and there’s only so much we can plant along the chain link fence. πŸ˜‰

Along with the saplings, canes and root stock we plan to order, we will be ordering potatoes and sunchokes. This time, we will not try to grow potatoes in bags, but will use the Ruth Stout method again, as part of preparing new areas for either more garden plots, or permanent plantings, the following year.

At this point, we have three low raised bed boxes built, and one high raised bed. Next year, we will continue to use the current beds in the main garden area. The goal is to cut the dead spruce trees to size so that, after things are harvested in the fall, the remaining beds will be converted to high raised beds before next winter. With how much watering we had to do during the drought, filling the beds hΓΌgelkultur style will be an important part in moisture retention. Even under normal conditions, high raised beds are notorious for drying out too quickly, but with how we fill them, coupled with the judicious use of mulch, we should be able to prevent that from being a problem.

We will also be making new beds for corn and the many types of squash we have for this coming year, but those will be in areas that will eventually have trees planted in them. Ultimately, we will be building accessible high raised beds in the outer yard to the south of the house, where they will get more sunlight. Eventually, we intend to build a greenhouse or polytunnel out that way, too. It’s not something we’ll be able to start building in 2022, but we should be able to start preparing where they will eventually go. The renter plans to build new fences next year (maintaining the fences was part of the deal they’d originally made with my late father), since their electric fence has been not working as well as intended. I hope to talk to them again about putting a new fence line across the old hay yard, which will be much shorter (therefore, cheaper) than rebuilding the existing fence, but also takes away an area of pasture. We would need a gate in there, though, so that we can eventually haul away those old vehicles to the scrap yard. As that would not be something they’d normally include, I’d be offering to pay for the gate portion. If they are willing to do the new, shorter fence line through the old hay yard, we will be able to get rid of some old, messed up fences and a shed that looks ready to collapse pretty soon. Then we can start building new garden beds out that way. This is also the general area where we want to build the outdoor kitchen, as well as planting a wind break. None of which are worth starting, while there is a chance the renter’s cows can get through. There are also old, collapsing fences around the inner yard we want to take out completely, rather than repair or replace, but again, it can’t be done until the outer yard is fenced in. Long term, though, we won’t have an inner and outer yard anymore, but just one really big yard.

Which means that, on top of continuing our work in the inner yard and garden, we need to get more work done on cleaning up the outer yard. There’s a limit to what we can do, without heavy equipment, but we can at least get a start on it. That was something we should have worked on this past year, but accomplished very little. Hopefully, this coming year will not have the drought and heat waves that made heavy manual labour a very bad idea!

With what we’ve learned from the past year, we know that this year, we will need to focus on protecting our plants from deer, groundhogs and racoons. We will also be focusing on permanent plantings that are drought tolerant and can handle poor soil conditions, even with the amendments we’re working on. We are also looking into planting forage trees and fodder well away from the house and gardens, to give wildlife less reason to invade our yards, looking for food.

As we build our raised garden beds, we will also be ensuring they will all be the same size at the top, so that any covers we build can be interchangeable. The low raised beds are boards and are 3′ x 9′. The high raised bed is 4′ x 9′, and we plan to build them all that size. With the thickness of the logs, the actual growing space inside is closer to 3′ x 8′. So if we build covers to fit the low raised beds, they should also fit the high raised beds.

While most of our goals are going to be expanding or continuing previous goals, a new goal I want to add is to have chickens. For our egg needs, we would only need about half a dozen birds. The problem is, we don’t have anything to keep them in. I am wanting chickens to be part of our soil reclamation progress, which means being able to move their coop and enclosure regularly. Buying a new chicken tractor is well beyond our budget, but we don’t have the materials to build one, either, and with the cost of building materials right now, it’s as out of reach as buying a new one. Of the many, many videos I’ve looked at for making quick, easy and inexpensive coops and shelters for chickens, none of them are suitable for our climate. Oh, they could be temporary structures for the summer, and I do plan to build versions of them that will fit over our raised garden beds, but none of them would keep chickens alive during our winters.

That is something I need to work on. I’d love to get able to get chicks this spring, but if we can’t shelter them once they’re big enough to leave a brooder, there’s no point.

So there we have it. We did accomplish some of our goals for 2021, but many of our goals are multi-year things, so it’s more progress than accomplishment.

Now we’ll see how much we manage to get done next year!

The Re-Farmer

Still celebrating!

Of course, we’re into the 12 days of Christmas, now, so we’ll be celebrating until the Feast of the Epiphany, aka: Three King’s Day, on Jan. 6. πŸ™‚

Even the kitties get to celebrate with special treats from the kitchen. I’ve got more in the fridge waiting for them, too. πŸ™‚

We did our big dinner on Christmas Eve and I was planning to bring a turkey dinner to my mother’s on Christmas Day. My sister (who belongs to a denomination that doesn’t celebrate Christmas) brought my mother over to her place for a Christmas dinner. I’m glad she was able to do that, and that my mother was up to the trip. So I visited Mom today, instead. I still brought her a turkey dinner for later. When getting groceries for her for the last while, I noticed she hasn’t been getting any protein, so I brought her one of the 2 pound packaged of ground beef from our freezer pack, too. Since she’s just feeding herself, that should last her a while.

I am happy to say she really liked the crochet mushrooms I made for her!

She even commented on how much it looked like her drawings. πŸ™‚ I’m glad she liked them. She had wanted them carved of wood, but it turns out she meant for the younger of my brothers to carve them for her. He does chainsaw carving out of repurposed cedar power poles. He makes really great morels, but I’m not sure how he’d have chainsaw carved porcini mushrooms using his tools and techniques! πŸ˜€

I’m glad I was able to visit her today. We’re getting heavy snowfall warnings for tonight, into tomorrow. It doesn’t look like the worst of it will reach as far north as we are. After that, the temperatures are supposed to drop quite a bit again, ranging between -20C/4F and -27C/-17F for the highs. Mostly closer to -20C. Still pretty average for this time of year. I will make sure to get another grocery trip for my mother in there, at least. I don’t want her to be going out in these temperatures, if I can help it!

It’s going to be a nice, quiet Christmas season for us, which is just how we like it. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer